Last season when Jesse Lingard was sent on loan to West Ham United during the January transfer window, many Manchester United fans assumed that the Academy players time at the club was coming to an end.
It would seem as though the player was also unsure about his future at his boyhood club, as recent as August 2021 The Times reported that Lingard may push for a move in the summer transfer window unless assured by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he will play regularly. Thankfully for both club and player, Lingard has been given playing time under Solskjaer this season, and he is already proving his doubters wrong.
Most would agree that Lingard earned his chance back at his boyhood club after his electric loan at West Ham United. Lingard only had a limited amount of time to make a statement after signing halfway through the season, but the midfielder managed nine goals and six assists in 16 appearances for the Irons.
His attacking numbers significantly helped the London club climb the Premier League table, with the club finishing sixth, this gave the club guaranteed Europa League football and was also only the sixth time the club had managed a top six finish since joining the Football League 102 years ago, as was reported by the club. The club labelled the finish‘a historic and significant achievement’ , West Ham fans would agree that Lingard played a significant role in this achievement.
Of course, West Ham worked as a team to achieve European football, however it can not be denied that Lingard was in scintillating form in this time, as proven by the fact that the midfielder was nominated for Premier League Player of the Month three times in a row in February, March and April.
It was third time lucky for Lingard who won the award in April, when interviewed about his win, Lingard stated ‘I definitely think I am in the best form of my career’. This was a statement win for the England international and showed United that the midfielder had a lot to offer when given the opportunity. It worked as Solskjaer made it clear that he wanted Lingard to stay in his squad for the 2021/22 season.
It is crucial to recognise that Lingard was not going to be starting in his preferred central attacking midfield position week in week out due to last seasons Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, Bruno Fernandes, also playing in that position and being a nailed on starter in the league and big Champions League games. This meant that Lingard would have to rely on making an impact off the bench in order to maintain a place in and around the squad.
Lingard has already done this, scoring two goals and getting one assist in only 136 minutes in all competitions so far this season, all of these attacking returns coming off the bench. Most crucially however, Lingard has delivered in crucial moments in games for United, including scoring a game winning goal in the 89th minutes against West Ham in the Premier League.
More recently, after giving the ball away that led to Young Boys beating United in the first group game of the Champions League season, Lingard bounced back by assisting Cristiano Ronaldo in the last minute of the game against Villareal in the Champions League, United won the game 2-1. He created this game winning goal whilst only having one minute on the pitch. The term ‘super sub’ has rarely been as appropriate.
These moments of brilliance are exactly what the manager wants from Lingard, with Solskjaer stating at the start of the season, ‘We really want to see the best of Jesse this season and we hope to see him, we support him, and we hope to keep him here with us’.
Lingard only has this season left on his contract with his current deal set to expire in 2022, Solskjaer in this statement makes it clear that he wants to keep the midfielder at the club, and there is no doubt that this position will have strengthened after the cameos we have seen from Lingard this season.
United fans will be hoping that the contract talk goes well and that United keep Lingard at the club, not only is he one of their own, but he is also a player in great form and has shown in the small amount of time that he has been given that he is a valuable asset to have, even if that is as the most famous substitute in footballs very own ‘Super Sub’.
Written by Jennifer McCord